New York

NY Businesses — and Dogwalkers — Brace for Plastic Bag Ban Coming March 1

Bags used for restaurant takeout food, plastic bags used to wrap meat or fish, and bags used for prepared food, newspapers, garments and trash will all still be allowed

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Paper or plastic will soon be paper nor plastic.

That's because as of March 1, plastic bags will be illegal statewide in New York, making what was once a staple in all grocery stores a soon-to-be relic.

"This is another step to saving our Earth, saving our city," said NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio at an event in Union Square, where he was handing out neon-colored reusable bags — of which the city has already given out 800,000.

De Blasio said that having reusable bags is not a new concept, but rather something that until 50 years ago all previous generations always had done.

“New Yorkers, we have another alternative for you or you can choose one of your own," he said. "These bags are going to help us have a clean earth and a future for our kids and grandchildren."

But the bag ban meant to cut down on trash and litter is making many deli and bodega owners across NYC uneasy. In fact, an association of 6,000 convenience store owners statewide opposes the state's efforts to allow stores to hand out only thick, reusable plastic bags that the industry says it can't yet produce. They are backing a lawsuit to try and block the ban.

The are a few exemptions to the new law. Bags used for restaurant takeout food, plastic bags used to wrap meat or fish, and bags used for prepared food will all still be allowed. Additionally, bags meant for newspapers, garments and trash are exempt.

Single-use paper bags will still be allowed, but counties have the option of imposing a 5-cent fee.

And while the bill is designed to reduce waste, some are now questioning how they are going to take care of their animal's waste.

"I pick it up with a plastic bag. What am I going to do now that we can’t," said dog walker Kristen Suarez, who was walking canine named Chili. "That’s a good question. I haven’t thought out it."

One thing Suarez did know: Paper is certainly not a viable option.

Although the law it set to take effect this Sunday, New York state will wait until April 1 to penalize stores that violate the ban, the state's top environmental official said Friday.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said Friday that the state has agreed to delay enforcement as it fights the lawsuit in Albany County court.

"We have consistently said since the beginning of our outreach campaign that we will focus on education rather than enforcement and today does not change that," Seggos said.

The state has planned to enforce the ban by issuing a warning to retailers who violate the law for the first time. Retailers could eventually face a $250 fine for a subsequent violation, and a $500 fine for violations in the same calendar year.

New York's ban has also drawn criticism from environmental groups who don't want New York to allow any plastic bags at all.

The law passed last April bars many types of businesses from using the thin plastic bags that have been clogging up landfills, getting tangled in trees and accumulating in lakes and seas.

State environmental officials are encouraging New Yorkers to start using reusable bags often made out of canvas or polyester. The state said it has purchased over a quarter-million reusable bags to give out to food pantries and shelters.

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